State CPS agencies are required under federal law to keep records of child abuse and neglect reports and cases, including case findings, confidential. This is an important protection due to the gravity and nature of these cases. But that confidentiality has exceptions. Thus, a parent who is involved with the DCPP, New Jersey’s CPS agency, should learn about his or her right to privacy. Likewise, it’s crucial to understand the situations under which confidentiality is not guaranteed.
When Findings Aren’t Fully Confidential
DCPP case records and findings—the results of the investigation—are not accessible to the public. This confidentiality protects parents from undue discrimination. More importantly, it protects the privacy rights of the child. But parents should know that their case findings are not entirely confidential. State laws dictate what type of information from child abuse cases is protected and what information can be used for specific purposes.
DCPP case records are largely confidential. But substantiated findings are included in the CARI (Child Abuse Record Information) database. This means if DCPP investigates a parent for child abuse and issues a substantiated finding in his or her case, that parent’s information will be added to the database.
Typically, the CARI database is not accessible by the general public. A number of entities and agencies, however, can access the CARI database if the purpose is to prevent child abuse and ensure the safety of children in the care of adults. For example, in New Jersey, an employer can run a background check that may access information on the CARI database for positions involving childcare, medicine, education, or significant contact with children.
Similarly, government agencies, law enforcement agencies, adoption agencies, the DCPP, CPS agencies in other states, certain service provides, and the court may also be able to access the CARI database. Entities requesting CARI database information must submit the request in writing, stating the information needed and the purpose of the request. DCPP can only release pertinent information during these requests. DCPP does not include any other findings, including established, on the CARI database. Not surprisingly, a substantiated finding can significantly affect a parent’s life. It can cause a parent to lose his or her job or prevent him or her from obtaining employment or volunteer positions in fields such as childcare and education. It will also prevent that parent from ever becoming a foster parent or adopting.
Another Important Exception
Under the Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Act, state CPS agencies are required to release findings or information regarding the fatality or near fatality of a child to the public. If the abuse caused the fatality or near fatality of the child, certain public entities may have access to information from DCPP case records such as the child’s demographics, the cause of the fatality or near fatality, and the offender’s relationship with the child.
If you have questions about confidentiality in your DCPP case, you should speak with an experienced DCPP defense attorney in New Jersey. An attorney can evaluate your case and advise you on what information may be accessed and under what circumstances. If DCPP has issued a substantiated finding in your case, it is also well worth your time to speak with an attorney about appealing the finding. A substantiated finding is a permanent record of your case that will follow you for the rest of your life. Appealing the finding could result in the finding being changed from substantiated to established, which would remove your information from the CARI database.
Fighting to protect your right to privacy is stressful, but the knowledgeable attorneys at the Williams Law Group, LLC have the experience needed to defend your rights and protect the child’s best interests. Located in Short Hills, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.